I’ve always been impressed by the amount of kindness and respect I have received by other travelers and hikers throughout my time in the National Parks. Not only that, but many people have been very helpful.
About half of the time I have spent exploring the National Parks I was on my own. Yet, those are definitely the times I have found the friendliest people in the parks and on the trails. Initially I suppose that may appear to make sense, people offering to help the solo traveler. However, I assume there must have been some people that would be put off by a bearded man in his 20’s traveling by himself. Some people might have thought I was creepy, or a loner, or even a serial killer (don’t worry I’m none of those). In reality I just loved hiking and camping in National Parks. I traveled with a friend and eventually my wife when possible, but if I couldn’t find anyone to go with; I was more than happy to go alone.
As I was saying, I’ve been very impressed by just how friendly and helpful other hikers and campers have been. I’ve tried to help others as much as possible, too.
Here are a few examples of the experiences I have had:
· When I was hiking the Mist Trail in Yosemite a man pointed out a nice vantage point for photographing Nevada Fall. I caught up to him later on the trail and we ended up hiking for a few miles together down the John Muir Trail. I was actually traveling with a friend on that trip, but we had gotten separated on the hike and the man I was hiking with (Mike) was traveling with his family, but he was on this trail by himself.
· I was only in Capitol Reef National Park for the morning on my way from Arches to Bryce Canyon, so I decided to fit one quick hike in. I picked the Grand Wash Trail and met a middle-aged man, named Lee, at the trailhead. Lee had recently retired from the Bureau of Land Management and had a wealth of knowledge of the southwest. It was like hiking with a guide. We talked as we hiked to the end of the trail together. He offered to drive me back to the trailhead, but I opted to turnaround and hike back).
· Another time I had just wrapped up the Phelps Lake hike in Grand Teton National Park when a young couple approached me and asked if I could give them a ride to Jenny Lake so they could begin a backpacking excursion that would end where we were standing (which is where their car was). My campsite was at Jenny Lake and I was heading there anyway so I said I would be happy to bring them along. They were both teachers on summer vacation. I was traveling alone on that trip, so it was nice to chat with a couple of hikers on the drive. We talked about different hikes and parks in the west. They even left a few dollars in my car despite me saying I didn’t want any payment.
· I was on the treacherous Half Dome cables when a fellow hiker started handing out extra water bottles to hikers in need. My friend Joe and his girlfriend each took one, but I had more water left, so I declined. I should have taken some water, because I ended up running out of water a ways from the trailhead (so did Joe and Kate).
· On my second trip to Glacier National Park I decided to hike back to Grinnell Glacier, because I liked it so much the first time. I ran into two couples at the trailhead, one couple was my age and the other was in their 50’s. The four of them met on a trail the day before and planned on hiking on a ranger-led hike to the glacier, but got the date wrong. I told them I had previously hiked the trail and that it was an amazing hike. Then the five of us started off and ended up hiking the whole trail together. I enjoy hiking alone, but it can be just as nice, if not better, to hike in a group sometimes (especially in bear country).
· One time I was camping alone in Madison Campground in Yellowstone. There was a young family at the site next to mine and they invited me over to eat dinner with them and then also to join them at their campfire later. I felt so lucky to encounter such friendly and generous people. They had lived in both Alaska and Hawaii so I talked to them a lot about those places since they sit atop my Travel Bucket List.
· Another time I was camping at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton and there were a couple of middle-aged sisters at the site next to mine. I shared some guide books and supplies with them and helped plan their short overnight hike into Death Canyon.
· When I was camping alone in Arches I met another solo traveler who ended up bringing beer and a ton of firewood to my site. He was an electrical engineer from Los Angeles who was on a long road trip across Utah and Colorado. He wanted to explore some National Parks before returning to his wife and starting a new job in a few weeks. We exchanged hiking stories at my campfire and he recommended a few trails in Arches for me.
Those are just a few examples of friendliness I’ve dealt with on the trail or in camp. As far as hiking goes, I’ve generally felt that the farther I go from the trailhead the nicer and more helpful other hikers are. All in all, nearly everyone I have spoken with in a National Park has been extremely kind and helpful. It’s a shame people aren’t always like that outside of the parks.
Have any stories to share about friendliness in the parks or on the trail?